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Ease Up On The Self-Pressure

As writers*, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We are on a constant quest for improvement. We write first drafts and fifth drafts; send our manuscripts and queries and synopses to beta readers or forum participants to be torn to shreds; if all goes well, we repeat this process with agents and editors and finally, the public. Every book, every page, every word is a learning experience, and it never stops. This isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it’s very good. I’m not sure what I’d do with myself if I stopped learning, growing, improving with every thing I write. It’s part of the fun.

But the problem comes when you stop seeing yourself as someone who is good (or great!) and trying to become even greater, and start seeing yourself as someone who cannot write a single good word on a page. When you hate everything you write, because nothing comes out exactly as you’d pictured it in your head. When you rewrite your ms seven times and revise it thirty-two more times and there’s still that one pivotal sentence that just will. not. sound. right no matter what you do because you are such a terrible writer and…

This is when you need to take a step back and cut yourself some slack. We spend so much time trying to improve that sometimes we forget we are improving. We become our own worst critics, and never feel like we’re getting it right. It’s good to want to improve yourself, but not if it’s going to take you over and make you miserable.

I find that it sometimes helps to look back at things I wrote years ago—or even more recently—and see how much I’ve grown. It puts things in perspective, and reminds me of how far I’ve come. Because you should never become so overwhelmed by your desire to perfect your craft that writing stops bringing any enjoyment. Life is stressful enough without creating more of it for yourself. And if you’re never having any fun, what’s the point?

*Since this is a blog by writers, I specified my focus, but the advice applies more broadly, too.
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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  1. Great post. I guess we writers just like to torture ourselves... :)

  2. Great post! I blogged about the exact same thing today!


  3. After a tough writing morning, it was nice to stop by this post and get a bit of encouragement :)

  4. I agree completely. What a timely post. Thanks, Kaitlin. :)

  5. "We spend so much time trying to improve that sometimes we forget we are improving." So true. Love the last paragraph especially. Awesome post, Kaits!

  6. Kaitlin-- thanks for the post. it was exactly what I needed to hear today.

  7. You know, I think it goes in a cycle. When a writer starts out, they are gung-ho... until they realize how hard it REALLY is. Then confidence dips for awhile as rejection after rejection comes through. After some time and consistency, we rightfully get back up to the point where we should be; confident but not too much so. At least this is how it worked with me. Great post.

  8. Thanks, I needed this! I'm so critical of myself! Nice to chill out sometimes.

  9. great post! i so needed to read that...

  10. Yes, yes and yes. It is unbelievably easy to get so swept up in perfectionism that we forget why we're writing in the first place.

    This is exactly what I needed to read this week :-)

  11. For soem reason, I read "Ease up on the self-pleasure, " and totally thought I was on the wrong blog.

    I did a writers conf this weekend and one of the presenters said she only has one rule for her writers group. You never present your work with an apology.

  12. I definitely put more pressure on myself than everyone else combined!

  13. Awesome post, Kaitlin!

    I haven't opened my first book in about a year. I probably should, just to see how I've grown, but it's like at this point I'm putting it off and putting it off because...I don't know why. I'm afraid to see how much it sucked? And I'm wondering if, a year from now, I'll look at what I'm writing today and feel the same way?

    ACK!!! Self-pressure indeed. :P


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Item Reviewed: Ease Up On The Self-Pressure Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward